Decontamination Unit (DCU)

Definition - What does Decontamination Unit (DCU) mean?

A decontamination unit (DCU) is an area equipped with tools and systems that are used to remove hazardous and non-hazardous contaminants from persons, clothing, and equipment. They may be mobile units, modular units, or permanent facilities. In all cases, they are designed to be easy to clean so that the amount of contaminant that becomes present in the unit due to use is kept below a safe minimum.

Decontamination units are typically divided into separate areas that the person or item undergoing decontamination must move through in sequence to progress through the process. The purpose of this structure is to control the amount of contaminants that can exist within each area's environment so that cross-contamination of clean and unclean areas does not occur. A common decontamination unit layout is a three-area system comprised of an unclean room (undressing room), a shower room, and a clean room (dressing room).

Safeopedia explains Decontamination Unit (DCU)

Decontamination is performed to prevent individuals whose work exposes them to contaminants from inadvertently bringing those contaminants outside the workplace and potentially spreading them into the wider environment.

Decontamination units facilitate decontamination by providing an intermediary space between the contaminated area and the non-contaminated area. They are often mobile or modular in design, as the need for decontamination facilities at work sites is often temporary and location-specific. The use of mobile units ensures that the unit can always be kept reasonably separated from a source of contamination, and it also ensures that it can be cleaned separately from the rest of the worksite.

Decontamination procedures are important for the protection of workers whose equipment (e.g. a hazmat suit) has been contaminated from direct exposure to the contaminant. Decontamination also prevents a contaminant from being spread to non-work spaces, which may be ill-equipped to detect and remove it. Health professionals may have difficulty identifying the source of an illness if exposure to the contaminant that caused the illness occurred within a contaminated environment that it would not normally be expected to be found in.

Due to the importance of decontamination procedures to worker and public health, OSHA and other occupational health and safety agencies legally require workers to undergo decontamination after performing specific types of work. Recognized decontamination unit standards include ANSI 113, a standard for fixed and portable decontamination shower units, as well as country-specific standards and recommendations issued directly by government health and safety authorities.

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